Special Reports

Competitive eating may be mind over stomach

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Many people at home are more than a little curious about how it is possible to eat as much as the men and women at events like the Wing Bowl.

Well, it turns out that, if the way to man's heart is through his stomach, then the way to a man's stomach may be through his mind.

Bob Shoudt is familiar with winning moments; having just eaten 14 pounds of pasta, he is not comfortable, but he is confident.

For his efforts of putting lots food into his stomach on one particular day, Shoudt put $2,500 into his pocket; just a fraction of the many tens of thousands he takes home to Royersford each year in his side job.

"I've done 95 hamburgers in 8 minutes," said Shoudt.

Bob is a world ranked competitive eater.

Sitting in his home, furnished by winnings from events that would make most people sick, it is quickly apparent Shoudt is not most people.

Motivated, in part, by what can be substantial financial rewards, he has learned this is very much a mind game.

"I really firmly believe, for me, it's all mental," said Shoudt.

Shoudt sees a sports psychologist 7 days a week. He meditates and reads about Buddhist thought; all to help train his mind to push the body through that "full" feeling.

To Jonathan Squibb, mental strength is also part of what has become a lucrative lifestyle.

He's won 2 cars, several rings, and many thousands of dollars.

"I have a gift, a gift you could call it, to eat a lot," said Squibb.

"I focus on actually working out a lot. It clears my head. It gets me focused on what I need to do," Squibb said.

Both Shoudt and Squibb have battled weight. Squibb weighted 13 pounds as a newborn.

But now, perhaps surprisingly, when not in a contest Shoudt is a vegetarian, and Squibb eats almost exclusively organic food. It is, they say, the result of being able to mentally control what they eat.

In a contest, they can overcome the urge to stop; when not, they can overcome the urge to start.

But the preparation is not all mental. Both men prepare by eating massive meals and drinking huge amounts of water.

Shoudt has just one meal a day, but his dinner consists of three hefty servings, followed by 6 or 7 cans of stomach stretching green beans. Plus, he strengthens his jaw by chewing 50 pieces of gum, for 20 minutes at a time.

For his part, Squibb prefers three meals a day, a very big breakfast, followed by a larger than normal lunch and dinner.

For them, it has become way of life to support a standard of living.

"I have to admit after a contest there are times I feel pretty uncomfortable," said Shoudt. "But most times, you get one of those things, or you're holding a big check, I just imagine there's another class towards college for my son or daughter."

Bob declined to tell us exactly how much he makes doing this, but was comfortable saying it was above the 6-figure mark.

His house is filled with philosophical books and sayings. And whether it is evidence of a strong mind or strong stomach, Jonathan Squibb told us he plans to eat wings during the big game Sunday.

Yes, even after the Wing Bowl, he still craves them.

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